Bad Ideas


I’ve discussed the WSJ article about Merrill’s new training program and their move away from “cold calling.” It’s interesting. And it’s one of a number of bad ideas that might look good on the surface. 

As a marketing expert I would never design a “Marketing Plan” around pure cold calling whether it’s through phone calls, taking right out of your office door and knocking on doors, nor direct cold solicitation via LinkedIn, Facebook, or just directly “Spamming them.”

More bad Ideas

That having been said I stumbled across another article about the same shift in their training from a key executive, explaining the objectives. Before I get there, after reading it I looked up some interesting stats, and mulled over the article. My first thought was “they’ve lost their mind,” – eventually I arrived at a conclusion that many, many big companies are setting themselves up for gradual declines in quality of their “rubber meets the road” front end sales force.

I started thinking a bit about some fairly tough professions that I could think of and what percentage of “wanna be’s” actually succeed. Think about being a performing artist, actor, athlete, or an elite soldier. Without out going through all of these (and, you can probably guess the odds of becoming a “marquee” artist or full-time actor. I did share two of these. The odds of going from High School Football player to Professional is 0.08%. Woman’s basketball it’s 0.03%. The odds joining the Navy with the intent to become a Seal and actually becoming one is 9.5%.)

Although I have mixed emotions about some of this stuff It’s frankly very obvious.

Many of these big organizations in our industry are struggling with several things. The top performers having grow up in the corporate shell end up going out on their own. What ends up at the top is a worst of all possible worlds situations where the mediocre stay and the high performers leave.

Next, they bow to the pressure for “diversity hires,” and all of the other stuff going on right now.

They skip the “gender-neutral” and “color-blind” approach that would be fair and would let high performers rise to the top and weak performers fall out naturally.

The article I shared over the weekend described just the opposite. Dropping the brutal “cold-calling” bootcamp indoctrination “helped” them reach their hiring and promotion objectives of more diversity hires. A different company (I believe it was UBS Wealth proudly proclaimed that 75% of promotions were “diversity” promotions.)

Well, if that means the best and brightest were promoted. The high performers were protected and the weak ones moved into more appropriate career paths – fabulous. Somehow I doubt that.

Let’s look at another environment.


What about the Marines? What if they decided that “bootcamp” was just too hard? How about eliminating all of the areas what were weeding people out and creating necessary “toughness” skills? If that helped them hit their diversity goals – what would happen to mission readiness?

Is diversity a plus?

Well, certainly in some areas absolutely. I’m not sure the NBA needs a bunch of short white men (or women.) In other areas, it’s a must. I believe Lee Iaccoca was pretty revolutionary when he brought groups of moms in to critique their mini-vans and give them their likes, dislikes, and make suggestions. Years later Cadillac took the a similar tact as they put a hot-shot, skilled, highly-capable, young (relative to their executive ranks) woman in charge of their marketing. They learned something really late – women were a huge (majority) vote on most EVERY car buying decision. The same is true in just about every consumer product. Ignore that at your peril.

With my background in the Martial Arts, whenever possible I found Hispanic instructors preferably bilingual (English-Spanish.) Now that wasn’t the primary criteria. In all cases without regard to race, gender, etc., I hired the best possible person for each role. However, I did work on recruiting from that group whenever possible given the make-up of our clientele.

Why? Our population was more or less 60/70% non-immigrant white and 30/40% Hispanic. Better to be representative of the “customer base” and perspective whenever possible.

However, water down your initiation rituals. Go kinder – gentler on your “bootcamp” experiences. In all most all cases – really bad idea. Now, I’m sure this is really going to irritate some people. No worries. However, don’t fall victim to bad ideas just because it’s the current trend or to try and look good.

Need some good ideas? Check out this podcast “Secrets Every Financial Advisor Should Know” and get going in the right direction.